High-performance Single Cell Genetic Analysis Using Microfluidic Emulsion Generator Arrays

Anal Chem. 2010 Apr 15;82(8):3183-90. doi: 10.1021/ac902683t.


High-throughput genetic and phenotypic analysis at the single cell level is critical to advance our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying cellular function and dysfunction. Here we describe a high-performance single cell genetic analysis (SCGA) technique that combines high-throughput microfluidic emulsion generation with single cell multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Microfabricated emulsion generator array (MEGA) devices containing 4, 32, and 96 channels are developed to confer a flexible capability of generating up to 3.4 x 10(6) nanoliter-volume droplets per hour. Hybrid glass-polydimethylsiloxane diaphragm micropumps integrated into the MEGA chips afford uniform droplet formation, controlled generation frequency, and effective transportation and encapsulation of primer functionalized microbeads and cells. A multiplex single cell PCR method is developed to detect and quantify both wild type and mutant/pathogenic cells. In this method, microbeads functionalized with multiple forward primers targeting specific genes from different cell types are used for solid-phase PCR in droplets. Following PCR, the droplets are lysed and the beads are pooled and rapidly analyzed by multicolor flow cytometry. Using Escherichia coli bacterial cells as a model, we show that this technique enables digital detection of pathogenic E. coli O157 cells in a high background of normal K12 cells, with a detection limit on the order of 1/10(5). This result demonstrates that multiplex SCGA is a promising tool for high-throughput quantitative digital analysis of genetic variation in complex populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / isolation & purification
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Microfluidic Analytical Techniques / methods*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction